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First F-35 fighter jets delivered to Turkey

First F-35 fighter jets delivered to Turkey

  • First, two F-35 fighter jet delivered to Turkey during a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas.
  • Ankara plans to get 100 F-35 fighter jets in coming years

First F-35 fighter jets delivered to Turkey

Turkey took delivery of its first two F-35 fighter jet at a ceremony in Texas on Thursday, despite opposition from the US Senate.

Following a formal handoff ceremony at Lockheed Martin’s F-35 facility in Fort Worth, Texas, the defence giant will ferry the aircraft to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona where Turkish pilots will begin training alongside U.S. airmen.

The two fifth-generation jets are the first of what the NATO member and F-35 program partner hopes will be the start of a 100-strong fleet.

However, both House and Senate versions of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act contain restrictions on Turkey’s participation in the F-35 program due to Ankara’s plan to buy Russia’s advanced S-400 air defense system.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 85 to 10 to block the sale, citing the deal with the Russians as well as Turkey’s continued detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was accused of spying and attempting to overthrow the government in 2016. He has denied all charges.

Turkey likely to buy Russian Su-57 Jets if US Suspend F-35 Jets delivery

First F-35 fighter jets delivered to Turkey

“The Turkish government claims to have purchased a Russian air defense system designed to shoot these very planes down,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said last week on the Senate floor.

“We would be handing this technology over to the Kremlin if we granted Turkey these planes, and Congress will not stand for it.”

What’s more, the air defense system’s radar could reveal vulnerabilities in the jet that Turkey could then relay to Russia. The conflict of interests among NATO partners is proving a growing headache for the alliance.

In response to questions over the S-400 purchase, Turkish President Recep Erdogan has remained defiant. “When it becomes necessary, we will use the S-400,” he told local media earlier this month. “What are we going to do if we don’t use the defense system — are we going to rely on the United States?”

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